Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Reflections on the Holy Land

Since I got back from Jerusalem in June, my mind has been constantly taken back to the Holy Land. I have revisited sights in my mind over and over again and it has been wonderful. I, like many of my classmates, wrote the dates we visited different sites in my scriptures and hymnbook. It has been wonderful to be taken back at the sight of a simple notation.
I have also been reading Gerald N. Lund's series Kingdom and the Crown. I love his style of writing and his dedication to historical accuracy. Where story telling is required for the flow of the novel, he explains history in the chapter notes. It has been amazing to revisit the scripture stories through these novels.
Anyway, I begin reading them in Provo, checking them out from the BYU library. I finished the second book when I was visiting family in CA and died of anticipation waiting to get back to the library to check out the 3rd book. Finally, I checked it out and was only 50 or so pages into the book when I moved up to Logan and had to leave the book behind with instructions for my sister to return it to the library. The Friday after I got to Logan I found myself at the Institute Building once again seeking the book! Checking in with the Librarian I became eligible for check outs and eagerly took the book home. I spent the next week of late nights working through the book.

I finished a week and a half ago late at night. I just want to say that again I know my Savior lives. I didn't need to visit Bethlehem, Galilee, the Garden tomb or read these books to know it, but the Spirit I have felt all over the Holy Land and then again in my own room in Logan witnesses to me that He lives and did what He says He did. I am so grateful for that knowledge. My life will never be the same because of what I experienced in Jerusalem. I read the scriptures differently and I long to know my Savior more. 
It has been over three months since we have returned from Holy Land. Sometimes it seems a dream that we were there. But every time my mind is taken back into that wonderful dream I will thank God for what I learned when I lived in the Holy Land. 

Father, How do I express the songs of my heart?
I hear the prayer calls and again my heart is drawn out in gratitude towards Thee.
Why have I found favor in thy sight?
I am daily surrounded by the tokens of Thy Son's sacrifice.
Churches erected, song and stories etched in stone.
The roads where He walked, the stories He lived, the pilgrims who come.
My song is unchanged. The testimony that must be shared is there as it ever has been.
Only now the harmonies are richer, the melody more pure.
Father there is a song in my heart. Be with me yet, lest I ever forget this great symphony.
-Written 5/23/08 at Shepherd's Fields Bethlehem

Friday, August 15, 2008

Home and reflection

I have now been home for almost 2 months and it feels like a dream that i was actually studying in the Holy Land. I feel so grateful for the opportunity to study in such a sacred environment, it was truly a blessing. I walked where the Savior walked and went to so many sacred sites. My life has been truly blessed. As I reflect on my experience I realize that I really had an incredible time and felt like I came closer to my Savior and gained a understanding better the love the our Heavenly Father has for each one of us. I have been asked many times what was my most favorite part of Jerusalem? This question is very difficult to answer, there were so many incredible things that I saw and experienced, I saw the Pyramids in Egypt, Petra in Jordan, I welcomed in the shabbat with the Jews, I went to many mosques, I rode a camel in Egypt, I floated down the Nile, I went to Gethsemane, the Garden Tomb, the Church of the Nativity, The Dome of the Rock, many Tell's and other historic sites. Originally I would tell people that my most favorite thing was living there, in the holy land. I think though a more accurate answer would be my most favorite things while I was in the holy land were the times when I had time to reflect on all of the incredible things I was seeing and feeling. It all hit me once when I was in Gethsemane during the last week walk our class went on. We were all instructed to sit in quite reflection, I began thinking and pondering about the incredible mercy the Heavenly Father has shown me personally in my life, the trust that Heavenly Father has in each one of us, as well as the love that he has shown personally to me and has for each one of his children. I already had a testimony of the atonement and life of the Savior before I went to the Holy Land, but while there I was able to understand more of the gospel and have visual images for the scripture stories. My testimony was strengthened through the things I learned and experienced and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity I had to go to the Holy Land.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Last week walk

Today was our last field trip. We loaded up the buses and went to our first site. We went to the site dedicated to the last week our the Saviors life. The first stop was a church at Bethpage where Christ began his Triumpful entry into the old city. We then went to a church dedicated the "Our Father" prayer. The prayer was on mosaics in every language imaginable. After that we walked to Dominus Flevit. This area was where the Savior said "O Jerusalem" We then went to the church of Mary Magdeline-a Russian Orthodox church. I had been there before but to go with the class was a special experience as well. We walked down to the Garden of Gethsemane. When I had gone there before I went to the area of the Church of all nations. This time we had scheduled a special garden and were able to reflect on the great sacrifice that our Savior did for us and the miracle of the Atonement. I am so very grateful for the miracle of the atonement and especially for the love that Our Heavenly Father has shown for us in the great plan that He prepared. We then had lunch in the Orson Hyde Park and went to our next site at the St. Peter Engallo Cantu (rooster sing), a church dedicated to Peter denying that he knew Christ 3 times. Shaunelle and I taught here and shared part of a talk President Hinckley gave about how even though Peter denied that he knew Christ, Peter knew when he had messed us and after he wept bitterly became once again a strong advocate for truth and righteousness. We walked to the upper room where Christ and his Apostles partook of the last supper and also where the resurrected Lord visited the apostles again. We then went to the Church of Flagellation which is dedicated to the pain that the Roman soldiers put Christ through.
We ended our field trip in the Garden tomb- there is a debate of where exactly the actual place was where Christ was buried. The Garden tomb is one of those places and is decorated with a beautiful garden. We walked in to an empty tomb. It was peaceful and the spirit was strong. He is risen. He lives and loves us. I have felt his love in so many places here in the Holy land. We will be returning home soon and upon reflecting on all of the experiences I have had here I stand all amazed at the love Jesus has for me, oh it is wonderful, wonderful to me.
We ended our day with each person sharing their testimony, we were separated in our classes so the 40 of us reflected on the miracles that we experienced and learned from. We have become a close group and have learned so much from each other. I will miss walking the streets in the Holy Land and the amazing spirit that can be felt here.

(pictures will be uploaded soon)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Third time is almost the charm

After our last classes I went to the Rockefeller Museum and then to the Dome of the Rock (temple mount) for the third time. It is a really cool area and very peaceful. I was going with some people who had never been before. First you have to wait in line and then pass through security to get on the grounds. As we were walking around I noticed that one of the doors was open. The Mosque is very beautiful and is a house of prayer, very few people who are not of the Muslim faith get in. People were going inside and I told my friends- "it is open and people are getting in!" We ran to the door and looked inside. A man stopped us and asked us if we were Muslim. I said we were not and then we talked to him for a little while. He eventually told us that we could not get in because it is for Muslims only. It was the closest I have ever been to getting inside. It was an exciting day. Now we have to study for the two finals we have tomorrow. CRAZY!!!

Friday, June 13, 2008


Just wanted to show off the awesome sandals that are here. :D

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Jordan and beyond

We just got back from Jordan. We saw some amazing things including Petra, many ancient ruins and today we saw the place where it is believed Jesus was baptized. In Petra there was an optional donkey ride up to the top of a mountain that had 900 steps. I walked up and down the mountain. Most people took donkeys. I had kind of a funny experience with the donkeys. I will explain later. I just wanted
to quickly say we are back from Jordan we had a wonderful time and here are some pictures to enjoy! The picture on the top is what is shown in the Indiana Jones movie and the one on the bottom is the monastery that I walked the 900 steps to see.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up!

So here's the update on the last few days home in Jerusalem. We arrived home Tuesday and it felt so good to come home! Amazing the feeling in this city. I love Jerusalem! It will forever hold a tender part of my heart. This is a home for me and I pray for peace in this homeland.
Wednesday we had class in the morning and then a full afternoon. We hit the town and got money, then shopped a little, and got a pair off shoes repaired before heading to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It was not very busy which made the experience all the better. (Picture is of me right outside of the Sepulchre) After the Sepulchre we headed to Dung Gate and the Temple Institute. This is a group that are preparing for the building of the temple that will welcome the Savior when he comes. It was amazing. They are actually quite a fanatical group and considered terrorists by some. Lets hope we didn't support any terrorist actions by going there! :) I took tons of pictures because I know mom would especially be interested in all the stuff they have prepared.
Afterward we headed back into the Old City for some more shopping and then out to dinner for a birthday celebration (Ashley Andersen). went out to West Jerusalem and had aWe great time. At one point Deb and I tried our hand at being street musicians. We sang with a hat out in front but all we got were some smiles and a few people took pictures. We could remember all the songs we know how to sing together so we've decided to make a list and next time we will be prepared! It was just fun to be out with friends. We tried to make it back to Jaffa Gate for a concert that was going on but we were too late and sorely disappointed. It looked like it was a great concert. Maybe we'll catch another one before we leave!
Thursday was a full field trip day. I'll give you the run down but I'll have Deb or Mitchell write up the specifics. We started the day early at Masada in an attempt to beat the heat but it was still crazy hot. That was an amazing fortress! We then went to Ein Gedi where we swam in the Dead Sea. That was crazy. You really do just float! We also hiked up to some waterfalls before heading to our last stop at Qumran where they discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls. That place was cool because our very own Dr. Seely was the editor of six of the scrolls! He really is an amazing man and we love it when he is on our bus because we get to ask him all kinds of questions. We got back in time for dinner at the JC.
That night we had a lecture by Ophir to prepare us to attend his synagogue on Friday. Pretty cool stuff on the Jewish traditions associated with Shabbat. I'll I've got to say is that the Jews know how to anticipate and celebrate a holy day.
Friday we went to Yad Vashem (Holocaust Museum) in the morning and it was incredible! One of the most amazing museums I have ever been to. We came back after that and I got some reading done and took a nap before going back into the old city to get some money for Mitchell and go to Omar's (the olive wood shop). I found a beautiful, simple nativity that I really love so I was excited about that.
But the best part of Friday was going to Synagogue to welcome in Shabbat. It was so great! We great everyone "Shabbat Shalom!" singing the songs was incredible. Music is the way to my heart and I have never felt so prepared for the Sabbath to come. The sun set and I was ready for Shabbat. It made it even more wonderful when it was Fast Sunday for us. I hope I can get some of the music for the Shabbat evening service. I really was one of the most amazing experiences I have had. We danced and we sang and I was really moved by the words of the psalms we sung. These people have a relationship with God that I really admire but in the end I have this amazing desire to help them know the Savior they are waiting for.
Anyway, today has been a wonderful Sabbath and tomorrow we head for Jordan! The sun has just set and I have some preparation to do before going to bed. We have an early start in the morning. We want to be the first buses at the boarder! We'll see what happens. Once again, you won't hear from us for a few days but just think of us in Bethany, Mt. Nebo (the real one), Petra, Amman, and several other cool sights. Maybe watch the older Indiana Jones with Petra in it and think of us! We love you! We'll be back on Wednesday night!